5 Minutes With Eloise Sheppard, Managing Director, Call Systems Technology

Eloise is managing director of Call Systems Technology (CST), the UK's leading technology supplier for the hospitality industry, across front and back-of-house. Founded in 1995, CST was the first company to introduce restaurant paging to the UK hospitality market.

Tell us a bit about Call Systems Technology (CST)

The company introduced restaurant paging to the UK hospitality market in 1995 where many leading restaurant chains quickly embraced the technology. We ventured into other sectors and are now communication partners to over 15,000 system users over a large cross-section of industries including retail, hospitality, stadium & arenas, healthcare and corporate.

Talk us through your career prior to CST

I lived in the US and worked in the hospitality industry whilst attending university. This experience has served my work with restaurant, hotel and events sector clients over the years. I joined the company when it was the UK office of JTECH Communications, the world-leaders in on-site paging. My role started in administration and client support working up to Financial Controller UK.

In 2000 I was part of the MBO team when we became Call Systems Technology Ltd. I held roles in Finance, Marketing and Operations before becoming Managing Director in 2012.

What are the company’s ethos and aims?

We believe our success stems from our ability to truly understand the communications needs of our customers and to deliver effective solutions. Our ethos of working with and working for passionate people in the industries we serve is second only to our desire to provide best of breed and innovative technology and world-class customer care. Our aims are to fix the everyday communication pain points for our customers and help them to maximise operational efficiency and increase profits.

What work is CST currently doing in the retail sector?

CST is currently working with retailers in both operational and customer experience capacities, using products including two-way radios, call buttons, customer paging and fire alarm paging to achieve solutions based on the retailers’ needs. CST is working with brands including Burtons, Ann Summers and Topshop to enhance their fitting room offering with call buttons, allowing customers to more easily request a different choice or size of clothing. We have worked with ASDA for a number of years following the rollout of our AlarmCall paging across their estate. When a fire alarm is triggered our solution notifies the correct team members who have a specified amount of time to investigate the alarm and determine its validity. If the alarm is false it can be cancelled before customers and staff are required to evacuate, this solution allowed ASDA to eliminate false evacuations, which were causing them considerable profit losses and charges from the various national fire brigades. We also provide two-way radios to many high street retailers and their distribution centres.

What aspects of retail might technology replace in the future?

Automated purchasing through technology like the Amazon Dash button has begun to eliminate ‘unplanned’ store visits used to pick up daily essentials. Commonly these spontaneous trips have prompted additional spend and could become a real loss for many retailers. Although many of the  supermarket giants already offer delivery they would surely benefit from implementing their own alternative to Amazon Dash. We’ve also already seen how technology has impacted the checkout experience; whilst technology won’t completely replace cashier staff in the near future it leads the way for other elements of retail experience to be carried out by technology or robots.

How is technology changing to positively affect the retail industry?

The biggest way technology is positively affecting the retail industry is by enhancing the customer experience. Technology is making it easier both for customers to request assistance and staff to know exactly when and where help is needed. With two-third of consumers surveyed (66%) saying their in-store experience had a negative impact on them, it’s important for store assistants to be available when needed. Technology can do just that and help increase dwell time and spend. In an operational sense technology is also helping retailers better keep track of inventory. Modern inventory control technology can eliminate over-ordering and under-buying by referring to each store’s sales history to calculate the optimum stock levels for each item.

How important is technology in retail outlets to the consumer?

A survey conducted by Visa Retail Support earlier this year revealed that 77% of UK consumers don’t think retailers are doing enough to make shopping in stores enjoyable, with 61% of those respondents believing retailers could be using technology to give that in-store buzz they’re looking for. Interactive screens and augmented reality, such as smart mirrors, seem to be the types of technology shoppers are looking for. Such technology needs to be readily accessible and easy to use to encourage customer engagement.

How are consumer preferences now changing with the rise of technology? 

The rise of technology means consumers now have more power than ever before and it’s making the environment even more competitive for brands. We recently conducted a consumer survey where 2 in 5 people admitted a negative changing room experience had damaged their perception of the brand they were visiting, highlighting just how much importance consumers place on the in-store experience. With the ability to do so much of their shopping online, customers want their visits to physical stores to be just as seamless as their online shopping.  This means there is a push to eliminate queues, enhance fitting rooms and personalise the experience.

How is CST addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

As the future of the High Street remains a concern, we are focusing on helping retailers make the most of their in-store offering with technology such as call buttons, software messaging and two-way voice communications for effective operations. Labour efficiency is a driver in this area. Safety remains an integral part of any industry and the retail sphere is no different, the alarm paging solutions we offer ensures the safety of customers and staff is always at the highest level whilst preventing lost costs from false evacuations.

What’s in store for CST in 2019?

We’ve recently moved to a new premises in Elstree which has allowed for more growth and better distribution services from a joint office / warehouse setup and showroom. The team will travel internationally to review and source new technology for our clients as well as attending relevant industry events and trade shows. Client focus groups and publishing thought leadership articles and accredited surveys useful to our clients will also be a feature.

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